I’ve always struggled with singing the UK national anthem. It seems to me to be entirely one-person-centric and doesn’t encompass a nation in its words. Also, being a Christian, I find the idea of asking God to save our monarch repeatedly a bit odd as she (and now he – more on that in a bit) professed a genuine faith. I would also describe myself as a republican, so the institution of the monarchy is somewhat set against my ideology.
There seems to have developed a chink in my republican armour, and it’s opened as the nation mourns the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II. The fact that I’m referring to her as Queen and not Elizabeth Windsor surprises me. For as long as I can remember – and against the general wave of support the monarchy has in our country – I have opposed the notion of having anyone ‘ruling’ over me that wasn’t democratically elected by the people. I’ve moaned about the cost of supporting such a family of kings and queens, princes and princesses. I’ve argued we would save some cash by getting rid of the royal institution. In addition, the nation would bring in more tourism and money if we opened up all the royal estates for public visitation. I’ve challenged people when they’ve stated boldly that you can do anything and be anything you want by having a positive attitude and a good work ethic. Well, I’ve argued that this simply isn’t true; you can’t be a king or a queen, prince or princess if you didn’t happen by random chance to be born into the correct family. I’ve battled against the class system where there are those with and those without, and we should all know our place. The problem is that the class system is enshrined in the very nature of royalty. It creates a “us and them” situation by its mere existence.
Even though I might still argue for some of those points, I’m shocked to discover that my attitude has softened. I would even go so far as to say I’m now a soft republican (if that can even be a thing). Of course, this doesn’t mean that I’ll be bashing out the bunting for every royal occasion, but it does mean that I have a newly found respect and admiration for the late Queen Elizabeth.
It could be that my change of attitude comes first through the (apparent) realisation that I have never known any other monarch, like most of the rest of the UK. Now she has gone, I am left with a feeling of loss. Not a sense of loss like someone close to me has passed away. I’m not directly grieving the Queen’s loss; however, I am very sympathetic to the family that has lost a mother and grandmother, and my condolences are offered. I suppose I’m mourning for the space she once occupied. I realise now that her constant presence was somewhat of a security blanket, a reassuring, dependable presence in the life of everyone. Something in me absurdly must have thought she would be around forever.
My younger self would be shocked to read the following, but I’m writing this piece to say I’m grateful for her service. She gave all of herself in service to the UK and other commonwealth members and did it with dignity and poise. Moreover, she never wavered in the promise she made when she took the throne, “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share it.” Until the rolling news coverage and the mass social media postings, I had never heard that sentence. I had never watched any speech she gave despite the pressure from others to do so. In my younger days, as I lacked a belief in God, I would have never given her words any credence or value. But now it means so much. She set out not to ‘rule’ but to serve, and as a believer, that hits at the very heart of what it means to follow Jesus. In more recent times, as recent as August 2022, she said this, “For me the life of Jesus Christ is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role model of reconciliation and acceptance, He stretched out his hands in love, acceptence and healing.” I believe Queen Elizabeth II served Him well her whole life, and the sincerity of faith in her service is evident. As a believer, she now rests in the arms of Jesus.
Where does this leave me concerning the monarchy going forward? I think I’ll give King Charles III the benefit of the doubt, which I wish I’d given the Queen years ago. This doesn’t mean I’ll become some kind of royalist sycophant overnight. There are still issues within the monarchy that need attention. Still, he can have my loyalty and service if he first and foremost puts Jesus at the centre of all he does. His first speech as King to the nations set the tone well when he said, “As the Queen herself did with such unswerving devotion, I too now solemnly pledge myself, throughout the remaining time God grants me, to uphold the constitutional principles at the heart of our nation.” He also said, “I now dedicate what remains to me of my life, I pray for the guidance and help of Almighty God.”
I am reminded of a few verses in Scripture where Paul, writing to Timothy, says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
So as King Charles III prays for guidance and help from Almighty God, we must pray for him and the other leaders in our land.
God save our King.